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India’s Chepauk practice session ahead of World Cup opener hints at Ashwin’s selection against Australia

If India’s practice at the Chepauk on Thursday is any indication, India seem to have already made their choice for the playing XI.

After a stunning run over the last few weeks, which includes an Asia Cup title haul and a home series win against Australia, India have their playing XI more or less figured out for the 2023 World Cup opener against the five-time champions, which will be played at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. Although the one area they do need to figure out – their bowling line-up – do need an extra spinner or a third seamer. And if India’s practice at the Chepauk on Thursday is any indication, India seem to have already made their choice.

India’s pace options include Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur and an all-rounder in Hardik Pandya. In the spin department, India have two all-rounders in Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin along with Kuldeep Yadav. Only three of the aforementioned – Hardik, Jadeja and Bumrah – pick themselves, while the position for the remaining slots depends largely on the condition of the venue.

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Following an engaging net session on Thursday, it seems India are most likely to go with Ashwin as a third spinner against Australia, which means Shardul will miss out considering a possibly gripping pitch at the Chepauk and his hold edge of key batters in David Warner and Steve Smith.

In the recently-concluded Australia series, where Ashwin had made an ODI comeback after 20 months having replaced an injured Axar Patel for the series and later for the World Cup team, the veteran off-spinner had picked four wickets, three of which came on a batting-friendly Indore track, sparking a top-order collapse. He dismissed Marnus Labuschagne twice in two games and got the better of Warner and Josh Inglis while also troubling Smith.

Hence, it would not be a big surprise to see Ashwin gets a nod ahead of Thakur in India’s World Cup opener at Chepauk, thus making is first appearance in the tournament after eight years.

Before beginning with his bowling practice, Ashwin worked for a considerable time at the nets on his batting skills. He faced throwdowns from the side-arm specialists in the squad before testing his himself against the regular India bowlers and a set of local net bowlers. In fact, he looked rather impressive with his aerial shots which could come handy while batting at No. 8. He later bowled for an extended session as well to Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan, Thakur among others.

This was India’s second practice session ahead of the match against Australia and Shubman Gill was the only player missing. Reports on Friday morning claimed that the star opener was down with dengue fever and hence is likely to miss India’s first two games at the World Cup. This would imply that India would open with Ishan Kishan alongside captain Rohit Sharma.

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